Kirsten Tynch, P.E., PTOE, LEED AP, ENV, SP (F) is the Managing Director of VHB’s Virginia Beach office.
Kirsten has paralleled my term on the ITE Executive Committee in her time on the ITE International Board of Direction. Frequently, young professionals will ask me “how” to lead in our industry. While it is difficult because everyone has a different journey, if you want an example to follow as a road map, Kirsten has it down. Every step, every effort, and every choice she has taken are tied together cumulatively building to greater learning, relationships, accomplishments, and trust—all the foundations of a great leader. Women in engineering face incredible challenges in becoming leaders in our industry. Instead of being diverted by these complexities, Kirsten’s focus of serving others and building great teams is a great navigation tool for emerging leaders. Early in her journey, that focus on leadership was recognized by the Virginia Section of ITE (VASITE), which named Kirsten its Young Member awardee. She was also the Southern District Joseph M. Thomas Young Member Award recipient. The role that ITE awards and recognition can play in elevating leadership qualities couldn’t be more evident as Kirsten advanced to becoming president of both the Virginia Section and Southern District.
Kirsten led VASITE during a very difficult economic time in 2008. Her success in providing cost effective benefits to ITE members by keeping dues low, encouraging cost savings on continuing education, bolstering student outreach, improving networking opportunities, promoting dialogue between public and private members of our industry, and having fun along the way led to her subsequent election as the 2014 Southern District president. The programs created under Kirsten’s leadership focused on serving its members included the Learning to Lead newsletter and Outreach Month (encouraging members to do one presentation annually for K-12 or college students). Kirsten advocated for members to start small, take a chance, join the team, and be an integral part of the transportation profession. “Your voice matters, when joined with others passionate about transportation it can make a difference in shaping your community.” With Kirsten, it is not just what you do as a leader, but what others are encouraged to accomplish with you. Her message to be a part of our changing transportation profession, and to not to be afraid to step-up and be heard is reassuring to everyone with something important to say. It encourages collaboration and follows her path of choosing your team wisely, allowing for many opportunities to be part of greatness.
"If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito." - Dalai Lama
"I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together, we can do great things." - Mother Teresa
She has chosen wisely by having mentors like John Kennedy, a lifetime ITE leader within VHB; graduating from LeadershipITE; and advancing her credentials, like becoming an Envision Sustainability Professional and LEED AP. She has supported Zaki Mustafa’s “Transforming a Life” program for the homeless, advanced scholarships for young members to engage in transportation, and rallied people around her to feel they are inclusive in the future success of ITE—that is what a leader looks like.
I have had the good fortune to get to know Kirsten in the last three years and I’m sure you will at a future ITE meeting. You can chat with her about being a die-hard Virginia (UVA – Go ‘Hoos) and Pittsburgh fan, her interests in food (just go to Pinterest – I need to learn more about that mac and bacon), the poor choice of liking the color green (how could you when your team has the same color [orange] as mine at Oregon State), and favorite music (Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett, and AC/DC…all of whom I have seen live myself). I still have not forgotten how she beat me in the Fantasy Football finals a year ago. Leadership extends to family life, choosing to marry your best friend and being the best mom in raising great kids—that shows commitment of a great leader. While we may be virtually meeting today, soon we will be together. Do not miss the opportunity to take a chance and learn from her team.